On Wednesday, it seemed as if Warner Bros. had been caught spamming Reddit with posts promoting the new Selena Gomez-Ethan Hawke action thriller Getaway. Users noticed that the posts, which linked to trailers and featurettes about the film, seemed planted, and took to downvoting the content and filling the comments up with satirical remarks about corporations trying to astroturf the site.
Ultimately, the site's General Manager, Erik Martin, posted a statement that said that Reddit management had determined that WB had indeed posted the items, and condemned them for doing so. It was an embarrassment for WB, because Redditors hate few things as much as inauthentic, secretive marketing.
As it turns out, however, Warners wasn't behind the postings at all.
Late Thursday night, Reddit retracted its condemnation of WB, issuing a statement saying, "After further investigation, we have found that neither Warner Bros. nor any of their employees was involved in this activity. To be perfectly clear, the posts that we detected came from a third party who had no affiliation with Warner Bros. This third party was not part of the marketing efforts of Warner Bros for the film."
Have you heard about the new movie Getaway, starring Selena Gomez and Ethan Hawke? No? Well that's probably because Warner Bros., the studio distributing the dramatic motion picture, hasn't been promoting it very much, beyond the normal junket interviews. As you might suspect, given the lack of promotion, the movie is apparently not very good — it has an impressive 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so the good folks over at the WB seemed to have decided to roll the dice.
They apparently spammed Reddit. No good.
It's hard to slip one past the many eyes that make up Reddit, especially when you've got a bunch of marketing people trying to sound like normal Redditors, who have their own preferred and idiosyncratic language. In a series of posts, WB marketers seemingly plastered links to trailers and featurettes, and then left comments about how excited they were to see the movie (which, again, only 3% of reviewers have enjoyed).
It wasn't long before Redditors caught on, downvoted the posts, and reported them to the site's administrators. Soon after, the GM of the site posted a note to the /r/movie subreddit, as both an update to users and a warning to future would-be spammers.
"All accounts involved have been banned and we have spoken with Warner Brothers and let them know this is unacceptable," Erik Martin wrote, adding that site employees determined that only a few WB marketers were responsible for the spam posts. "If you want to promote your awesome works on reddit, buy an ad, don't try to interfere with organic activity."
For their part, WB says, "We absolutely do not do business that way as part of our film marketing. We are looking into this allegation as we take it very seriously."
Whether they did it or not, the damage is done; even harsher than Martin's post, were the reactions posted by regular Redditor users, who filled up the spam posts with a litany of satirical taunts, including a litany of comments that more or less called WB marketers a bunch of robots masquerading as humans.
"I AM AN ORDINARY CITIZEN TOO, I CAN'T TALK FOR LONG BECAUSE I HAVE TO EAT, JUST LIKE A REAL HUMAN," the user iPotatoFry taunted. "AND YOU SHOULD ALL SEE GETAWAY FELLOW MOVIE GOERS IF YOU ARE A FELLOW HUMAN."
The list goes on, including this response from IMRANCHWILDER, who seems to always enjoy caps:
"ALL OF THESE RESPONSES HAVE MADE ME, A YOUNG ADULT-AGED FAN OF ACTION THRILLER MOTION PICTURES, VERY EXCITED TO SEE THE NEW FILM GETAWAY, STARRING ETHAN HAWKE AND SELENA GOMEZ. I UPVOTED THIS LINK BECAUSE THE TRAIN STATION FEATURETTE IS AN EMOTIONALLY STIMULATING PREVIEW OF WHAT SURELY WILL BE THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR, WHICH OPENS AUGUST 30."
All of the alleged marketers' comments have since been deleted, though their posts remain.
Using Reddit to promote movies has become an essential part of every studio and publicity's plan, largely through both creating content that they hope gets posted to the site — by actual users — and having film stars participate in Ask Me Anything chat sessions. On Thursday, Olivia Wide participated in an AMA for her movie Drinking Buddies, while big names like Seth Rogen, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Amy Schumer have done them this summer, as well.
"The biggest piece of advice I give people is that it should be fun," Martin told BuzzFeed earlier this summer. "If I'm talking to a publicist, if the person doing it isn't going to have fun, then they shouldn't do it. It's not for everybody. Ideally, this is at least more interesting, if not more fun, than your typical press junket. The other thing I tell them is that there are no rules."
Except, you know, being honest about their identities.